What it means to love my body

It’s easy to say you love your body. It’s difficult to mean.

As an athlete — namely a hiker and CrossFitter — I love what my body can do.

It can deadlift and squat more than it weighs. It can jump high and dip low. It can push fast and pull hard. It can sprint; it can endure. It can hike up mountainsides and trudge through feet of snow. It can go far and do more than I ever imagined.

As a women, I hate what my body can’t do.

It can’t fit into my clothes anymore.

When I trained for long-distance races and solely considered myself a runner, my body was tiny. It could fit into the smallest sizes, wear whatever it wanted without concern.

Now that I’ve been attending CrossFit classes four times a week and hiking every weekend, my body has gone from tiny to massive.

I love how I look without clothes on, but fitting into my clothes is another story.

In the last few months, my body has slowly outgrown most everything I own. Skirts I’ve had since high school and college won’t budge past my hips. Workout pants I bought not even a year ago struggle to stretch over my gargantuan thighs. Running shorts stretch taut across my butt and chafe my inner thighs when I walk. Tights I’ve worn for years have ripped and torn at the crotch because the material was stretched too far. Dresses that used to fit loosely now strain across my upper back, shoulders and chest. Long-sleeve shirts look like Saran wrap sealing my biceps and triceps in misery.

As an athlete who has shifted her focus from cardio to strength training, I love how my body looks — but I often hate how it makes me feel.

* * *

A few weeks ago, I decided enough was enough.

I purged my closet of everything that no longer fit and started buying new, bigger clothes online. I tried to stop associating a size with beauty, and I caved and even bought a medium in a few bottoms I knew would be too tight in a small.

I tried to speak out about my concerns, make them more public in the hopes it would further help me accept my new body.

At work, I was laughed at for thinking sizing up to a small or medium was bad. My co-workers didn’t understand how even such a small change, to what was still a theoretically small size, could affect my body image, my self-esteem and my confidence.

When I complained to my mom and husband, they asked, “Well, should you stop doing CrossFit?” They didn’t understand how much joy the sport brought me in every other way, and how it had given me a new focus after running had left me injured and grieving time and time again.

At my CrossFit gym, however, people understood. They said outgrowing my clothes was normal. That it happens. They said it was good I couldn’t fit into my clothes anymore — it meant I was getting stronger.

A green Rubbermaid container now sits in my basement, filled with clothes that no longer fit or represent who I am. And my closet is now filled with bigger sizes to accommodate my muscular, strong, powerful body.

Sometimes, though, I think of how my closet is now filled with clothes to accommodate my fat self. The girl who graduated college and promptly outgrew her clothes and put on weight as soon as she said “I do.”

I’ve gained almost 15 pounds since graduating college. I like to believe that those pounds are from reintroducing meat into my diet, starting CrossFit and hiking more than ever before.

When I look at my lifted, rounded butt, the heads of my thighs that poke out far past my knees, the definition in my back, and the rocks that have become my calves, I know I’ve gained muscle. But when I step on the scale at a doctor appointment or try on a piece of clothing I haven’t worn in a while — one that got overlooked in my initial purge — I feel overweight, self-conscience and afraid that I’ve somehow left myself go.

It’s in those moments that I have to remind myself what it means to love my body.

It means remembering that sometimes I will and sometimes I won’t. It means hanging on to the feeling when I do and pushing away my negative self-talk as soon as it starts. It means taking the time after I shower to admire my muscles in the mirror and think about what all they did that day, how they helped contribute to the powerful woman I want to be. It means knowing that loving my body is a qlifelong battle, and that it won’t always be easy.

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